New Additions: November 2015
7th December 2015
We add hundreds of fonts to the Identifont database every month. Most of these are recent releases, and some are simply new acquisitions from foundries who were not yet represented on our site. Stephen Coles gives his take on the most interesting recent additions.
Most foundries, no matter how original their work, have always sought to fill holes in their libraries. “We’re missing a sans serif. Let’s think about designing one this year.” Lately, as the libraries of these foundries grow and the number of unique possibilities gets ever smaller, it seems those holes have shrunk from classifications to subclasses.
Case in point: Acumin. It acommodates a very real void in the Adobe Originals collection: the Neo-Grotesque Sans Serif, but the cynical observer might just call it “another Helvetica”. That’s a fair gripe — the Neo-Grot has been done to death over the last decade — but it’s wise to remember that release dates don’t always reflect design dates: It’s said Acumin was in the works for nearly eight years. There’s also something intriging about Robert Slimbach working in a style that is clearly not his comfort zone. Adobe’s Principal Designer is much more a man of the Renaissance period than Swiss Modernism. This is reflected in Acumin which takes most of its cues from Univers rather than Helvetica. Letter widths lean toward the classical, not rational and uniform. Proportions are optimized for text more than posters and logos. You can see these decisions illustrated nicely on the Acumin specimen site which documents a lot of good history about predecessors in the genre as well.
Another class that has seen a lot of attention from foundries recently is the Geometric Sans. And within that class a popular subclass has arisen: those with vertically sheared terminals. In this genre, curves don’t end “naturally” with the cut perpendicular to the stroke (like Futura), nor parallel to the baseline (like Avant Garde), but vertically. The trend really caught fire in the last couple years, but it was probably ignited in 2012–13 with Metric, Geometria, and Equip.
Objektiv fits in this category, but its ends are just shy of being vertical. Its three subfamilies also offer an interesting mix of possibilities, ranging from strictly geometric like Futura (Mk1) to more humanist like Avenir (Mk3), with one variant sitting between (Mk2). These are not really separate typefaces, but rather one family with a few alternate glyphs — as you can see in Identifont’s Differences tool — but Dalton Maag is cleverly handling the common problem of customer ignorance about these alternates by splitting them into separate fonts. Each font still offers access to all three styles through the stylistic alt OpenType feature, which is handy.
Unlike the two faces above, Marcia, the debut from junior Font Bureau designer Victoria Rushton, doesn’t fit in any common category. It’s a legitimate text face straddling the Transitional and Modern classifications, but it has a sway and subtle (mostly optional) ornamentation that reveals Rushton’s penchant for lettering. This “quaint fanciness” (for lack of a better term) is something found in many Bells, Baskervilles, and especially Zuzana Licko’s Mrs Eaves; Marcia even has many of those discretional ligatures that were popularized by Licko. Most digital Bells and Baskervilles, however, do not set proper body copy, whereas Marcia has the heft and proportions for readability in longer passages of mid-sized text. I am sure somebody somewhere is already using it for a children’s book. As they should.
I’ve featured LudwigType in the blog for three months in a row now: Contemporary Sans in September, Brenta in October, and now Godfrey. That’s a lot of attention for one designer, but Übele just happened to unleash a string of releases and each one is worth mentioning. Like his other recent designs, Godfrey is a comfortable marriage of function and eccentricity. At first glance it’s a straightforward, straight-sided sans influenced by older grotesks of continental Europe. Then there are clear departures: a high-waisted ‘P’ and ‘R’, long titles on ‘i’ and ‘j’, and perfectly vertical descenders on ‘f’, ‘j’, ‘y’, and ‘Q’. These traits give Godfrey a somewhat towering stance, but it remains a rugged workhorse at heart. Historical predecessor Venus comes to mind, and also other contemporary straight-sided sans serifs like Scout and Heron Sans, as well as the more modernist Akkurat.
Emil Bertell of Fenotype has interesting ideas and decent drawing skills, but to me he suffers from two common pitfalls of script type makers: overembellishing fonts with unnecessary swashes, and failing to test the fonts in a wide range of letter combinations. He travels the same path with Journey. First, don’t judge it by its alphabet sample — like most scripts it should be seen in words. But even then, the slip-ups are apparent: the ‘w’ leans too far to the right to let other letters follow; the Black weight is too tightly spaced; and even the designer’s own use examples show that the overzealous swashes cannot reliably be used together (see third “Hotel”). Bertell obviously has talent — like many of his other faces, Journey has an novel look — he should just allow himself more time and restraint before bringing his next release to market.